Unfortunately, today the Commission voted to approve a highly flawed final rule to establish a public database of consumer complaints. While, on its face, this seems like a worthy project, once you get into the details of what will and will not be posted, the problems with the majority’s proposal are like ingredients in a bad holiday recipe. In addition, the lack of any effort by the majority to reach out and come to a consensus on the issues Commissioner Northup and I raised in our substitute proposal is glaring.
Instead of limiting the people who can post a complaint to those with first-hand information about the incident, anyone can post a complaint–trial lawyers trolling for clients, unscrupulous competitors looking to damage a business or its reputation, or the gossiping neighbor down the street who heard the story “through the grapevine.”
Instead of requiring submitters to at least put the location of the incident or the model number of the product, complaints could be filled with only sketchy information that is of little use to anyone.
Instead of verifying that the information posted to the database is correct, CPSC is under no obligation to confirm the accuracy of information submitted, even when the accuracy is challenged. And while it is clear the CPSC will not investigate most of these claims, when we do, we are not planning on telling consumers the results. It appears once the complaint’s there—accurate or not, it’s there indefinitely.
We had the chance to make the database a helpful tool for consumers, but instead it will potentially become just another sink hole for complaints, but with the apparent ‘seal of approval’ that comes from being on a federal government website. We had the opportunity to get it right but instead have chosen to spend taxpayers dollars (approximately $29 million of them) to construct something that could well mislead consumers and undermine our safety mission. Consumer safety is not advanced by such a result.
This expensive bird is burnt, dried out and not fit for serving the consumer.
Here’s my official statement on the issue.